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2021 End of Year Summary
Ali Ladak
November 26, 2021

In 2021, Sentience Institute has continued to pursue big-picture, longtermist research on moral circle expansion. This approach is detailed in our new paper in the journal Futures, “Moral Circle Expansion: A Promising Strategy to Impact the Far Future,” and the updated Our Perspective page on our website. 

Because moral circle expansion is such a broad topic, when we launched in 2017, we decided to focus on farmed animals, an important, tractable, and neglected cause area. In late 2020 we incorporated a second focus area (alongside our continued work on farmed animals), artificial sentience. While sentient beings today are almost entirely biological, there are compelling arguments that artificial sentience will be much more common in the far future. Few, if any, other organizations have prioritized their moral and social inclusion. For more detail, see our recent blog post, “The Importance of Artificial Sentience.”

We hope to raise $90,000 this giving season to continue working on the most important, outstanding questions in farmed animal research[1] and to solidify our artificial sentience research program. We are highly funding-constrained, with multiple excellent researchers whom we would be thrilled to hire with each call for applications but do not do so because of limited funding. The academic literature on the moral consideration of artificial entities is undergoing rapid growth, so we believe there is currently a unique, time-sensitive opportunity to positively influence the direction of this field. (For more detail, see our new literature review published in Science and Engineering Ethics, “The Moral Consideration of Artificial Entities.”) With additional funding, we are prepared to more rapidly and thoroughly take on this opportunity. We believe that we could absorb, with similar cost-effectiveness, at least $240,000 this giving season and potentially much more. Please consider making a donation or reach out for collaboration, feedback, or questions.

Output in 2021

Completed Research

In-progress research

More detail on our in-progress research is available in our Research Agenda.


Note: Higher opacity indicates stronger priorities.

2021 Spending

So far this year we’ve spent $109,825, broken down approximately as follows (88.9% research, 5.4% outreach, 5.6% admin):

Room for more funding

We are currently aiming to raise $90,000 this giving season (November 2021–January 2022) to continue our research on animal farming and to solidify our artificial sentience research program. Given that our current work lies at the intersection of multiple areas — animal farming, artificial intelligence, social change, longtermism — it is outside of the scope of many traditional funding systems. 2021 is a year of particular financial uncertainty for us, so we particularly appreciate your consideration this year.

If we raise our target amount, we plan to make an additional research hire. If we raise above this amount, we will consider hiring additional researchers, the annual cost of which is generally around $60,000 (including all costs, e.g., operations, taxes). We are highly funding-constrained. Our previous hiring round received 123 applications with 5–15 candidates we would have been thrilled to hire, but we only had funding for one at that time. We believe we can absorb funding of up to $240,000 this giving season with similar cost-effectiveness, concurrently hiring several researchers and taking advantage of time-sensitive opportunities for research on artificial sentience. This is a relatively conservative estimate, and we would be very open to a more ambitious plan if funding becomes available.

If you have questions, feedback, or would like to collaborate, please email me at If you would like to donate, you can do so from our website via PayPal or by check. Thank you for your consideration of our work.

[1] We conduct specific research projects that are “low-hanging fruit” in farmed animal research, such as case studies of social movements that have often been referred to in farmed animals strategy without in-depth study (e.g., Social Movement Lessons from the Fair Trade Movement) and experiments that have been suggested many times over the years but not yet run (e.g., The Effects of Animal-Free Food Technology Awareness on Animal Farming Opposition).

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